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Omonia FC confirms €28 mln takeover

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Omonia Nicosia FC has confirmed the club will be bought by Cypriot expat billionaire John Christodoulou and informed UEFA, the governing body of European Football.

The London-based Cypriot billionaire is set to take over Omonia Nicosia FC in a deal worth around €28 mln, from the current major stakeholder, wealthy Cypriot investor Stavros Papastavrou.

The deal comes less than three years after New-York based millionaire Papastavrou stepped in to save the club from financial ruin in May 2018.

Based on the agreement Papastavrou had made with Omonia when taking over in 2018, he was obligated to hold on to his majority stake until 29 November 2021, which means a deal can go ahead in December.

Yianis ‘John’ Christodoulou, a London self-made real estate king, is close to agreeing with Papastavrou to take over the majority share package of the champions.

Papastavrou is looking for a way to disengage himself from the club due to his involvement in the banking sector in the US.

His recent incursion into the banking sector, and the fact he is based in the United States, have made it difficult for him to remain involved in running the club.

Due to the rapid growth of his business activities in the US, Papastavrou is faced with legal obstacles that forbid him from owning a sports club abroad.

According to US law, venturing into the banking sector excludes major shareholders from owning shares of a foreign club.

Sources close to the two sides confirm the “deal is done”, pending due diligence of the financial and legal documents.

Prospective new owner Christodoulou, currently a British national living in Monaco, moved to the United Kingdom aged eight following the 1974 invasion in Cyprus.

After leaving the island for the UK, Christodoulou, 56, made his estimated €2.4 bln fortune in real estate.

According to the ‘Greek Rich List’, Christodoulou left school at 16 to train as a diamond setter, starting his own business in Hatton Garden, the jewellery hub in central London.

He made steps in the real estate sector when he bought his first property in 1994, a North London studio flat.

Since then, he has built a portfolio of more than 2,000 homes and commercial properties in London, which are now under the name of his company, the Yianis Group.

The Yianis Group portfolio includes the London hotels Marriott West India Quay and the Canary Riverside Plaza, and Wool House in London.

The philanthropist heads the Yianis Christodoulou Foundation, is actively involved in local community projects in Cyprus and the UK and sponsoring sporting events.

Earlier this week, he inaugurated a basketball pitch at a state school in Kaimakli, Nicosia.

Supporters, although not sure what to make of the takeover, the fact Christodoulou is a self-proclaimed Omonia fan makes them more open to the idea of the club switching hands.

Risen from the ashes

Christodoulou is set to take over from Papastavrou, who had turned Omonia from financial disaster to a thriving club, having won the championship last year and finishing first the previous when the league was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Papastavrou’s stewardship of the club was the best example of how a Cypriot team in the red could be turned around to generate profits.

He made his fortune starting with a New York-based mortgage brokerage firm in the mid-90s.

The current owner has introduced a more business-oriented model to a club once drowning in debt.

Omonia’s flagging fortunes were revived after being taken over by Papastavrou in 2018. He pledged to invest more than €30 mln.

Last year, Nicosia’s Greens completed their most successful season after winning the league and participating in a European tournament group stage for the first time in its 73-year history.

Papastavrou made good on his word from day one, saving Omonia by directly injecting €1.5 mln, crucial to pass UEFA’s financial criteria, which the club could not have met otherwise.

He also absorbed €9.5 mln of the club’s €15 mln debt, promising the team would receive €5 mln every year for transfers and the payroll.

Omonia’s Europa group stage qualification had brought in another €8 mln, of which €5 mln is a bonus for participating in the Champions League playoffs after being knocked out by Greek opponents Olympiacos Piraeus.

This season, Omonia are in the newly founded Europa Conference League, where it has cashed in some €4 mln.